The GSA IG and Squabbles

The Office of Inspector General at the General Services Administration has been beset by internal differences, a distraction for an operation that was already embroiled in several disputes.

The disputes follow a long battle between IG Brian Miller and GSA chief Lurita Doan. In 2006, Doan chided Miller for not going along with her attempts to streamline the agency's contracting efforts. Milller accused her of trying to curb his ability to oversee contracts and GSA operations.

An inquiry and report by Sen. Charles Grassley last year criticized both of them.

In a complaint filed three months ago, the then-office counsel, Kevin Buford, accused Miller and his acting deputy at the time of violating personnel rules and retaliating against subordinates who complained. An Oct. 5 letter to the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency asked for an investigation of Miller and his former deputy, Robert Samuels.

That letter was followed on Oct. 10 by another complaint letter in which Buford was joined by three other lawyers in the office. You can see the letters and attachments here.

Buford, who has moved to a senior job at NASA, declined to comment. Miller and his office also declined to talk about the allegations.

In a telephone call, Samuels said he believes the counsel's office was upset at criticism it had received from Miller and him about its performance and is now "engaged in a power play disguised as a complaint."

By Robert O'Harrow |  January 12, 2008; 7:00 AM ET GSA
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Fascinating stuff for anyone that bothers to pore through this. The four attorneys have accused the GSA IG of misappropriation of funds, unlawful retaliation against whistleblowers, cover ups, destruction and tampering of evidence, violations of procurement law, harassment of career employees, cronyism and hiring of friends, politically inspired attacks, and creating secret files on career employees to intimidate.....Hmmm. Lots here to ponder, but the first question is why you would characterize all these charges as "IG Squabbles" and bury the story in your blog? When the GSA Administrator Lurita Doan tried early in her tenure to expose and curtail these same problems you found space on page one of the Washington Post a couple of times. Your story line then was that Doan was trying to cut IG funds and limit legitimate audits and investigations. Now the story is coming out and four attorneys from the IG's office have come forward as "whistleblowers" with evidence that the IG was improperly spending taxpayer money and engaging in any number of illegal and unethical practices. You trashed her for trying to stop these very same practices. Looks to me like she was right all along, took a principled position, but your bias and gotcha journalism blinded you to the facts and colored your judgment. These aren't " IG squabbles", these are criminal acts that need to be investigated and prosecuted. Too bad this didn't appear on page one.

Posted by: CJ | January 12, 2008 1:48 PM

CJ you have not been very diligent. Mr Harrow is himself more than a bit player in this story. Go back and look and you will discover that he was the guy that first published the allegations made by the GSA IG about wrongdoing. No doubt he thought that allegations of misconduct from an IG against an agency head were too delicious to avoid and he pounced on it like a robin on a worm, never bothering to wonder why the IG was feeding him bogus information. You are correct that Doan was unfairly criticized for trying, and failing, to bring some needed oversight on the IG long ago to end these very problems the the whistleblowers have now exposed. The rub here is that just about everyone in Washington is predisposed to accept the charges of an IG without question. Harrow is not the only one, Congressman Waxman and Senator Grassley gobbled up the same stuff even though the warning sings were already clear. You are now suggesting that Harrow will admit he was bamboozeld by the IG and rushed to judgement. In short you want his to admit he was wrong and the DC scandal machine never does that , it just moves on in search of another victim...

Posted by: Dan the Man | January 12, 2008 5:27 PM

Dan,OK but you missed the point. I, for one, am happy to read about scandal and wrongdoing on the front page fo the Post. That is exactly why I subscribe. My only point is that I want to see the guys that really did do something wrong or covered up something awful skewered. This guy Miller has a lot to answer for and needs to serve some time if he did have of what he is now accused of. For that matter, you also have to wonder about the conduct of Clay Johnson , Bush's best friend and the guy all these warnings were addressed to. We know now that Johnson was warned about the IG's coverups, misappropriation of funds and harrassment of federal employees months ago. Looks like Johnson just sat on the information and probably helped to cover it all up. Now why would the Presidnet's best friend do that? CJ

Posted by: CJ | January 12, 2008 5:54 PM

I've got to agree with CJ. This is not an insignificant story, nor apparently an isolated instance in this Administration. It appears to be a frequent occurrance stemming from the appointment of second-rate politically connected hacks for important positions of responsibility. How many IG's have we already heard about, terrorizing their staffs, devaluing and sidelining long-standing employees with valuable experience, hiring their cronies for high-ranking positions, etc.? These IG's are supposed to be clean as a whistle, because they are entrusted with overseeing the operations of their agencies; nonetheless, many of them are themselves clearly in serious need of oversight. This information should not be buried in an online blog, but rather published on page 1 of the newspaper. And Clay Johnson and the President's Council for Integrity and Efficiency had better follow up on this quickly, or they will be exposed as nothing more than a "good ol' boys' club" concerned only with covering up each others' malfeasance.

Posted by: JB | January 13, 2008 1:38 PM

Kevin Buford is a good man with an excellent reputation, unlike the two people he took action against. It seems clear that Samuels, especially, has attempted to turn the IG's office into more of a US Attorney's office by taking an adversarial and prosecutorial tack to even the slightest incident. This needs more attention that it has gotten so far. Reputations of senior people, not to mention the stock values of publicly traded companies, have taken a huge hit based on allegations made by the IG officials now exposed.

Posted by: beltwybndt | January 14, 2008 10:22 AM

These comments are insightful and may have merit, but to say Lurita Doan must be squeaky clean because her accuser is not, doesn't follow. Lurita Doan is guilty of contracting out to cronies, ignoring contracting safeguards, circumventing oversight and retailiating against those who disagree. She was so clueless about "public service" that she offered up her GSA employees to throw Photo-Ops and news stories to Republican Congressmen whose re-election was in doubt when she urged appointees to "help our candidates."

Posted by: andreac | January 14, 2008 1:06 PM

My beef is with Senator Grassley. This blow hole was a one man wrecking crew critizing a GSA contract with Sun Micro and calling them all cheats and crooks. Sun tried to tell him he had all the facts wrong, so did GSA contracting officers and even Administrator Doan, but he could'nt accept that fact that the IG was feeding him bad info. Now we learn that the IG's own entire legal team has admitted that IG Miller has been fast and loose with facts, dismissing his own legal advice, mounted political inspired investigations, and then shredding evidence to cover up the facts. Do you think Grassley will now admit that he was wrong with the same full throated scream in which he denounced Sun Micro based only upon the delusional claims of a corrupt IG? Me neither.

Posted by: contractor | January 14, 2008 1:31 PM are just repeating the same false claims that the IG worked hard to advance. These extraordinary documents now show that the IG was launching investigations to help push his own agenda and was very worried when Doan first started to scrutinize bizarre spending and personnel practices within his office. Does it not strike you as a bit strange that all of the claims against Doan originated from this same IG and, all of them came after she tried to bring more accountiability to IG operations well over a year ago? Give her some credit, she was wise to the problems within the IG long ago and actually moved to correct these very same abuses before careers were ruined and more taxpayer money was lost. In retrospect, she showed some balls and real leadership, qualities that the rest of the procurement people in this Administration do not possess.

Posted by: Dan | January 14, 2008 3:08 PM

I Say Put It On The FRONT PAGE!!!

When you have attorney's filing complaimts against their own IG - it's time for full view.

What chance do regular GSA employees have for fair treatment, when the Headquarters process of reporting fraud, waste and abuse is corrupt at GSA, by no less than the IG himself.

Some one needs to clean house or maybe this will have to wait until the change in the administration.

Posted by: TW | January 15, 2008 11:05 AM

These claims are all false and a fabrication. One should question why these people made these statements

Posted by: gsa ig employee | January 15, 2008 2:05 PM

Kevin Buford is a great example of what is all too rare in public service--moral courage. He took a "you bet your job" action to redress something that was very wrong legally and ethically and an abuse of power. That's servant leadership. Knowing him, he is not one to whine or complain nor to file specious charges. This is clearly NASA's gain as it is, if fairness prevails, the American people's.

Posted by: big guy | January 15, 2008 9:40 PM

I find it amazing that a person with absolutely no support within GSA has so many supporting comments here. It's almost like she's writing them herself!

Posted by: Amazed | January 17, 2008 1:25 PM

Dan, you miss my point. If the IG is not a reliable source, that is no guarantee Doan is innocent. You are attacking the messenger. The message may still be true.

Posted by: andreac | January 19, 2008 11:05 PM

Amazed, I'm not sure where you are getting your info, but to say that Mrs. Doan has no support within GSA is ludicrous. She may not be popular with the IG or some of the so-called executives, but there are lots of managers and rank and file agency staff who would lie down in front of a bus for her. For someone who has been accused of being an administration tool, she has had more issues with the appointees than the career staff. I don't know who is writing these comments (except this one), but don't be fooled into thinking Doan has no supporters inside the agency; its just not true.

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